The UPA II has been unfairly and somewhat irresponsibly charged repeatedly for anti-people decisions since the slew of economic reform measures were announced by the Prime Minister. FDI in multi-brand retail, limit on number of subsidized cylinders, and hike in diesel price have attracted maximum attention. No one in government, least of all the PM was happy to raise costs for the consumer. But we all have understood that it has to be done. Yet despite the pinch that the aam aadmi would feel it would be wrong to call it anti-people. And other measures will bring bountiful opportunities.

It is understandable that the Left calls all of it anti-people. Much of what we do by way of economics is anti-people for the Left because they have an entirely different idea of what is good economics, politics and international relations. Sadly for them, after Cuba succumbed to the charm of market opportunities, they  reap a lonely furrow. Besides even if one could concede some validity to the  theory of surplus value and the dictatorship of the prolitariat it would hold in a Marxist system where the State controls everything from property to cost of inputs and social entitlements. In an integrated national economy there cannot be a little Marxism here and there surrounded by the market. The sentimental version of this espoused by the staunch enemy of Marxists, the redoubtable Mamata Didi is equally inconvenient but at least possible to understand.

What however is difficult to understand is the unjustified and unjustifiable opposition of the BJP except that it shows the bravo of political bankruptcy combined with desperation for power. A charitable view of course would put the hypocracy down to the middle-man trader constituency
of the party. When it comes to hard core constituencies BJP is willing to sacrifice the shining Indians they sought to win over several times in the past.

So the bottom line is that we have to deal with adrift Marxists, Sentimental populists, desperate conservatives, regional adventurists, mild form of anarchists, and self-opinionated critics who live by decrying anything that does not begin with them. Arvind Kejriwal is the latest to join the ranks of the last category.

We have heard a lot from parties and party managers but very little from the aam aadmi. Does the aam aadmi not speak other than at election time? And all the speaking is done by TV anchors and Netizens. They all have a constitutional right to speak for themselves but whether they have  a right to speak on behalf of the entire country is somewhat doubtful. Be that as it may, the aam aadmi's right to know the truth is no less important. So the aam aadmi has to be told the 'why' and 'to what purpose' of the decisions we have taken.

Without going into the larger debate of State control versus Individual Freedom, on which many of us shift from side to side depending on the consequences for us, it would do to examine the field. Altruism (paropkar) is more a part of our vocabulary than our deeds. So 'what is in it for Me?' may not be entirely out of place in the discourse.

Of course 5 rupees more expensive diesel and a limit on gas cylinders is hardly good news. But this is not to be compared with less expensive diesel and  endless number of cylinders for cooking. It would ultimately, and in not too distant a future, mean long Ques at filling stations and endless wait at Gas outlets. There would be rationing and scarcity with all the evils that go with them. India would be a shadow of what we are today. Forget the BJP shine and UPA incredibility, we would be living in India of lost opportunities and shattered dreams. Who would claim the ashes from the pyre? So it was important that we take a cut today for a brighter tomorrow. We had to choice to live for the moment or plan for a lifetime and beyond for generations to come. Or look at it another way: the little sweat of our brows today will nurture the dreams of tomorrow.

Lest this be thought to be emotional rubbish let us get straight into hard facts. Our subsidy bill was touching 200,000 chores and even after these tough decisions we will bring it down to 160,000, still very high. We still have to find a huge amount for Food Security and Health for all. And even as some costs go up (with inflation too contributing to stress) we must not forget that in most democracies incomes are largely spent on food, health care, education and a place to live in.
We have in place RTE free education for all as well scholarships, health cover for all rural BPL and soon for urban BPL too, Indira Awas Yojana for BPL families, very soon subsidized food for 70 per cent of the population, PM's Skills Development and Job programme, MG-NREGA 100 day job guarantee for all and many other far reaching schemes. All this needs a lot of money. We admit that delivery is subject to slippages and diversion. Soon Adhaar will place a check on that. 20 million are already registered. What we need from the aam aadmi is to help us get the benefits to the beneficiary.

The Opposition parties have been critical of PM having said that money does not grow on trees. But they do not tell where it grows if at all. Wealth generation comes by adding value to raw material. For that one needs labour and technology to convert, transform, amalgamate with other raw material and most of all finance for all this. Finance comes from savings and foreign direct investment (equity) for sustainable endeavour (but also through short term loans). There is a lot of money world over waiting to be invested. India is a preferred destination but we have kept our doors partly shut. Large people need the entire door or much of it to step through. What they bring is something that is taking place seamlessly across the globe. There are people of Indian origin doing just this in the world. Why should india remain isolated?  The kirana stores will not wither away (there is enough evidence to that effect) but the middlemen may well. But that only helps the farmer and consumer. It is happening without any visible trauma for single brand retail; why should it be any different for multi-brand? Besides safeguards have been provided and collateral benefits have been provided for. If we have to transform  rural India it cannot be done without massive investment that is linked with it. Then just think of the jobs. It is time that we helped rural India escape the Stokholm syndrome of being unreasonable attached to its backwardness and inspire it to aspire for PURA (Provision of Urban facilities in Rural Areas) not through government hand outs but through voluntary investment.  People who worry about the raw power of Multinationals to dictate prices should read the Competition Act and judgements of the Commission.

We have to accept change as we did when railway and motorcar replaced the animal drawn carriage; telegraph replaced drums and carrier pigeons; piped water replaced the bhishtis; modern medicine replaced the vaid and hakeem; e-mail replaced snail mail. Not all of the new vanquished all of the old. Some survived, even evolved. So will it in our times. Civilizations are sometimes faced with the choice, "change or perish". Such is the choice we face today. We have opted for change. But of course the change is not limited to a few economic decisions and nor is it without roots in our philosophical beliefs and traditions of service of the disadvantaged and deprived.